Parents of Children with Heart Conditions Report Their Child Has Signs of Poor Oral Health

Boy With Down Syndrome At Dentist

Take your child to a pediatric dentist regularly for check-ups and cleaning.

Children living with heart conditions are more likely to develop an infection in the heart, which can be caused by bacteria in the mouth. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that many parents of children with a heart condition reported their child had teeth in fair/poor condition and signs of poor oral health such as toothaches, bleeding gums, or cavities in the past year, compared to parents of children without heart conditionsPediatricians, dentists, and pediatric heart doctors can coordinate care to improve oral health among children with heart conditions. Parents and caregivers can help their child maintain good oral health to improve overall wellness.

Read the scientific article

Main Findings

  • Parents reported that 1 in 10 children with a heart condition had teeth in fair/poor condition and about 1 in 6 had at least one sign of poor oral health such as toothaches, bleeding gums, or cavities in the past year.
  • Parents reported that nearly 1 in 6 children with a heart condition had not received preventive dental care (dental check-ups and dental cleanings) in the past year.

Visits to the dentist and oral care at home can be difficult for some children with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

Parents and caregivers can

  • Find a toothbrush and toothpaste that your child likes. An electric toothbrush may simplify at home oral care.
  • Use floss aids such as floss holders or floss picks.
  • Schedule a visit to the dentist with no treatment provided to help familiarize your child with the office and the exam routine before a real visit.
  • Among children with a heart condition, oral health was worse for those with intellectual/developmental disabilities, those living in poverty, and those without health insurance.
  • Healthcare providers can coordinate care to improve oral health among children with heart conditions, especially those with fewer resources and intellectual/developmental disabilities.
    • Refer your patients with heart conditions to a pediatric dentist who has experience treating children with heart conditions.
    • Encourage your patients to visit regularly for check-ups and cleaning and, if needed, provide resources for lower cost dental care.
  • Parents and caregivers of children with heart conditions can help their child maintain good oral health.
    • Help your child brush and floss their teeth daily.
    • Provide drinking water that contains fluoride.
    • Take your child to a pediatric dentist regularly for check-ups and cleaning. There are a variety of resources for lower cost dental care, including local health departments, medical insurance programs, dental schools, and state and local resources.
    • Discuss your child’s diagnosis and any medications he or she takes and ask your child’s dentist to contact your child’s heart doctor to coordinate care.

About This Study

Researchers used parent-reported data from the National Survey of Children’s Health to look at oral health and dental care for children with and without heart conditions, such as heart defects.

About Heart Defects

Heart defects are conditions present at birth that affect the structure of a person’s heart and its ability to work properly. Lifelong cardiac care helps people with heart defects live as healthy a life as possible.

Our Work

CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) is tracking the number of people living with heart defects to learn about their long-term health, healthcare use, and quality of life. This information can help identify opportunities to support the health and wellness of all people living with heart defects. Learn more about CDC’s research and tracking of heart defects.

Reference

Downing KF, Espinoza L, Oster ME, Farr SL. Preventive Dental Care and Oral Health of Children with and without Heart Conditions — United States, 2016–2019. MMWR. 2022 Feb 11;71(6):189-195.